I shifted onto my side to face her. “You don’t have to do all the grunt work, you know.”

Artemis rolled her eyes. Sometimes I watched her face and wondered if mine looked the same when I made those expressions. We had mirror features, but mine didn’t work like hers. Everything she did was pointed, precise, powerful. Everything I did was . . .


I shooed away a fat black fly buzzing close to my face. “You’re smarter than all those stuffy old layabouts, anyway. You should be doing the research and writing while they do the polishing.”

“I didn’t pass the test, so this is my role. And it’s not like there’s anyone else to do it.”

Rhys collapsed onto the blanket next to me. He and Artemis had been training since they were children. As soon as we rejoined the Watchers, Artemis was put straight into full potential Council training. Our mother insisted on it. She never even let me try. But why couldn’t we have Council members who were focused on healing? Who viewed the world—both natural and supernatural—as something to be fixed, not fought?

“What does that cloud look like to you?” I asked, pointing.

Rhys’s voice sounded like a scowl. “Do you know how hard it is to get rid of bodies? I just spent four hours testing different chemicals to try and dissolve an Abarimon skeleton, only to be informed by Wanda Wyndam-Pryce that in the case of those types of remains, they just drop the bodies in the ocean.”

I clucked sympathetically. “Makes vampires look considerate, what with the poofing and all. No cleanup.”

“Least they can do. Anyhow, they made me leave. The Council’s freaking out over something.” He yawned. “Above my ranking, apparently.”

“They kicked me out too,” Artemis said.

I didn’t mind the company. “If you all need something to do later, I’m cataloging inventory in my clinic.”

Artemis’s hand rested on my forehead. “Have you been taking your vitamins? You look pale.”

“So do you.”

“It’s almost like you’re twins,” Rhys said.

Artemis ignored him. “Have you eaten yet? I can make you something.”

“I can make you something. Your cooking is awful.” I stuck my tongue out at her so she would know I was teasing her. Though Artemis cooked breakfast and lunch, we all took turns with supper. No one liked it when it was my week. Half the time when I arrived in the kitchen, Artemis had already prepared everything for me. I couldn’t decide if I loved her for it or wished she would just give herself a break and let everyone deal with one night of my overcooked spaghetti with canned sauce.

She closed her eyes, relaxing. It was rare to see her face at peace. Rhys, too, was trying to catch a nap. A skill I far surpassed both of them in. Probably the only one.

I looked back up at the sky, enjoying that for these few minutes, Rhys and Artemis were shuffled to the side like I always had been. The clouds really were putting on a show. They pushed together faster now, swirling and billowing. And growing. And behaving decidedly uncloudlike.

Then the first tentacle appeared.

“Um. Guys?”

“Mm.” Artemis shifted so her head was closer to my shoulder. She froze, listening to my breathing grow strained. She pushed herself to sitting, looking only at my face. “What’s wrong?”

I pointed upward. “Is it just me, or does that cloud look like a giant demon emerging through a tear in the sky?”

“Oh,” Rhys said. “Oh. Yes. I don’t know what classification that one is.”

A brief, silent moment passed, and then—

“Weapons!” Artemis shouted. Rhys snapped out of his stupor and tore across the courtyard to an outbuilding. He returned with crossbows, pikes, and as many swords as he could carry. He had a nasty-looking rifle as well, already loaded with darts I knew could knock out even the biggest demons.

But this was bigger than the biggest demons. This was a monstrosity, a behemoth. Most demons we saw were hybrids or vessels for true demons in another dimension.

The thing coming from the sky didn’t look like it belonged in this world. It looked like a world killer.

I heard chanting and turned to find Imogen and Ruth Zabuto gesturing, the charmed boundaries of the castle activated by their words. The air shimmered like a dome over us, marking the edges of the protection. Artemis gave instructions to Rhys. And I sat on the blanket.

Doing nothing.

Because all I had been trained to do was heal people. Fix them. And right then, I doubted any of us would have enough left for me to fix when this was over.

After the fire, maybe because of my nightmares, my mom had always insisted I couldn’t handle stress. I was supposed to avoid intense situations. But a giant demon with one eye and teeth-covered tentacles descending from what had been empty sky only moments before? Pretty impossible to avoid.

We were dead.

Everyone was dead.

The demon settled over the magical boundary. The scent of burning flesh made my stomach turn, my throat feel ragged. The demon didn’t pause. Pustules along its underbelly burst, coating the barrier in steaming, sizzling orange putrescence. Tentacles encompassed the entire shining dome. The demon was as big as the castle itself.

Ruth Zabuto’s voice was trembling. Imogen ran back into the castle, presumably to find and protect the Littles. My mother burst out, but she didn’t come to us. She stayed at Ruth’s side, adding her fierce voice to the older woman’s. I wanted her with me, but, as always, she chose to protect someone else.

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